ON THE SEAT OF A PIT TOILET AT A TINY REST AREA OFF U.S. 395 IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
My wife was driving. We were on the way home from yet another work-related trip to a remote corner of California.
“Ha-ha, laughs and giggles,” I told my wife. “This is funny but I really, really need to stop and use the rest room as soon as we see one. Funny, I know, because there’s no place to stop.”
We were in the middle of nowhere, amidst hayfields on both sides of Highway 395, 65 miles south of Alturas CA, 116 miles north of Reno NV. Luckily for me, a sign appeared on the horizon, “Rest Area 1 Mile.”
Sure enough, we came upon said rest area and I toddled off to the side of the building marked “Men’s.” Happily, no one was occupying the premises.
To my chagrin, as I bolted the latch, I found myself in the dark. I felt around for a light switch and found none. By the bit of sunlight coming in through three small grates, I stared deep into the filthy bowels of what I vaguely recognized as a pit toilet. Perhaps it was the lack of a flush handle that gave it away. Or perhaps it was a flashback to a camping trip with my family when I was eleven years old. Six of us crowded into a tent, and my father would wake up to ferry us to the latrine in the middle of the night by flashlight. The venue was a campground near the tiny town of Gilboa in upstate New York. I had no idea that the place was named after the location of a Biblical battle, but I did develop an impressive case of butt rash.
I hope I avoid that ignominous fate in my current situation. In my urgency, however, I was left with no choice but to grit my teeth and sit down. I count my blessings, for there is not one, but three rolls of toilet paper at my disposal here.
I brought some trash from the car to dispose, but no trash basket is in evidence. Worse, however, is the fact that there is no sink. So, after squatting over this putrefying hole, I won’t even be able to wash my hands.
Oh, gee. Some poor soul is rattling the door handle, desperate to get in. I hear a slight moan, and then what can only be described as a retch. Listening to the wretch retch, I can only feel sorry for this poor person. “Look,” I privately reason with him, “you can puke your guts out on the lawn of this rest area, making a horrible mess in the process, and everyone will take pity on you. I, on the other hand, do not have the option to drop trou, grunt loudly, and violently defecate in the sunshine without being promptly arrested for indecent exposure and summarily hauled off to jail in the CHP paddy wagon. And what would I tell my boss when I call out from work tomorrow? You, my friend, can call in sick. I, on the other hand, will have some splainin’ to do.”
Back at the car, my wife gripes about finding a similarly disgusting situation in the women’s room. “Do we have any hand wipes?” She asks. “Ah, we have one left. There should at least be a place where you can wash your hands!”
We share the single remaining pre-moistened towelette as we fly down the road. We need to find someplace to stop for lunch.
But first, we need to wash our hands. With lots of hot water and soap.